Rochester: A City of Quality (Part II)
Presents a survey of the city of Rochester, N Y, its history, culture and economic advantages. Explains the role of good planning in the city's development.
Ken Smith sez: The high point of this film occurs at its beginning, when we see Rochester's gaudy "clock of nations" in action in its modern Midtown Plaza. Beyond this, all Rochester seems to offer is "stable people" and "plenty of convenient parking".
ROCHESTER NEW YORK GAS ELECTRICITY PUBLIC UTILITIES CORPORATIONS CITIES INDUSTRY MANUFACTURING LABOR WORKERS PHOTOGRAPHY HIGHWAYS FREEWAYS REDEVELOPMENT URBAN RENEWAL EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY BELL AND HOWELL CORPORATION XEROX CORPORATION NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT GENESEE RIVER SHOPPING MALLS (INDOOR) MIDTOWN PLAZA (ROCHESTER, N.Y.) UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES FACTORIES SUBURBIA FAMILIES CHILDREN RECREATION LEISURE PARKS AUTOMOBILES HOUSES INFRASTRUCTURE BUILDINGS DEMOLITION CONSTRUCTION MAPS NEW YORK STATE GREAT LAKES SHIPPING AERIALS
Subject: Jam Handy
IN those days Detroit was oodles flashier than Rochester - as Jam Handy's films will show. Look under "General Motors" and you'll see the Motor City in its heyday.
On the other hand, the parody of this film "Rochester a City of Poverty" on YouTube is nothing compared to Dee-town these days...or as we refer to it "Detroit Meadows."
That lotsa parking thing was no doubt a big draw with those humongous cars people had in those days - many with tail fins that stuck out for miles.
Subject: Interesting to see what I've missed
This is definitely a must see for any local Rochesterians.
Subject: One Big Advertisement
Scenic wise, Rochester didn't seem to match up to many other areas in New York State. Presently, Rochester is a far cry from what was dreamt for the future when this film was made.
Subject: The Twilight Zone
Where were the black folk? I did not see one person of color. Also, it seemed like everyone and their brothers drove a Chevy. Most of the cast of characters seen are now pushing up all those flowers the narrator was spouting about.
This is a great movie. It resembles all the promises of America to provide a wonderful middle class and upwardsly mobile society. Seen here, frozen in time, is a document that will be of upmost value to future archeologists and anthropologists who will, with their best efforts, try to account for a window of time in the American Experience, wherein all living then (1963) actually believed in the "promise" of the future and the indomitable spirit of the American Dream.
The traitors to this dream where still skulking in the wings conspiring with the international bankers, the politicians and the still to be created globalist companies who would carry out the destruction of the dream. Relish this cinematic treat and know that once all the content of "Rochester" and "America" which was reflected in this production was true. The promise was the hope that was in the future for all. Now, 43 years later, that hope is in the past tense and long ago dissipated.
Subject: Important historical film of Rochester
Many of the businesses featured in the film are no longer in existence, such as Daw Drugs, B. Forman Co., Edwards, Sibley's and McCurdy's. It was fascinating to see the planning stages of structures that are now fixtures of the city, including the Xerox building and the Ginna nuclear power plant (note the strong influence of the film's sponsor--Rochester Gas and Electric). The skyline has changed dramatically since then.
Midtown Plaza, featured in the film, was brand-spanking new in 1963. I remember going downtown to see the "clocks of all nations" as a young child. Unfortunately, Midtown Plaza has deteriorated quite a bit. Suburban shopping malls have now taken over in a big way.
Since 1963, the expressways have been expanded significantly, as well as the Thruway entrances. There is now an EZ-Pass system that can be used for automated toll-collecting. However, we still have "lots of parking"!
The narration of the film was certainly corny and over-the-top. I can understand how a non-native could find the film much less interesting. Yet, I found the old footage of familiar places very compelling. My folks enjoyed it too.
Subject: I want to go to Rochester now!... Wait, I've already been there! LOL
First the clean people comment. I have never had a film that demonstrated such hidden agendas as this film had. The clean people comments spring up all over this film. Case in point, the scene where shipping is explained. "What kind of products are shipped? CLEAN products, compatible for the community" (as opposed to what?)
The other bizarre thing is it's hammering down that Rochester appears to be the Parking mecca of the world. Every tiny development is emphasised with "and it has plenty of parking!" comment. Yesiree, the overbloatness of cars was in full effect here. (but not chevys Mr Handy?)
As for the film itself, I have no idea of what Rochester was like during the time this was produced, but I was there last year and uhhhh things have changed lol. When I think on it now, there's not a black person in the film (the clean look don't forget!) and there is certainly a huge black population in Rochester... along with the miles and miles of cement.
Strange the very limited mention of Eastman House, since it's one of the top attractions in Rochester. Maybe something against Kodak?
A highly bizarre curio. just like the boy with the overly big granny style apple chewing on his ROchester apple in the film.
Subject: Rochester Then and Now
Given what we know now about the great changes that Rochester has faced in the last 40 years, changes which are not even hinted in this film, it is easy to bash this film as yet another example of civic boosterism in the tradition of George Babbit. Yes, much of the important history of the city is omitted, especially its role as an important destination point of the Underground Railroad, and its role in hosting both German and Italian immigrant groups on their path to assimilation in the U.S. But it is probably unfair to expect this film (sponsored by the city's gas and electric utility) to have fairly covered these issues nearly 40 years ago.
As I noted, I am not from Rochester, but cannot imagine that denizens of this city will not view this film without a considerable dollup of bittersweet nostalgia. Given what we know about the urban problems that now afflict it, and its economic dependence on one or two major companies for the bulk of its economic activity, this feeling is natural. The future, when it came to Rochester, was nowhere near as bright and light as this film predicted it would be, but it was hardly catastrophic either.
This city survives, a profoundly different place than imagined by the boosters of 1964 who made this film, but one that, in my opinion, still exemplifies many of the virtues espoused in this film. These include a strong sense of community, a willingness by private enterprise to subsidize the arts and education, and, at least in my experience, a uniquely civil attitude towards outsiders that makes strangers feel welcome.
Subject: Somewhat Boring, Yet Historically Significant
Despite Ken SmithÃÂÃÂs semi-disparaging remarks about this film, there is much more to this film than the admittedly gaudy ÃÂÃÂClock of NationsÃÂÃÂ sequences that bookend the film. Indeed, if one views this ephemeral film in its historical context, it becomes readily apparent that this is much more than a sales film. ÃÂÃÂRochester: City of QualityÃÂÃÂ is a document of urban renewal subsequent to the population shift from the cities to the suburbs, and its anticipated effects.
As weÃÂÃÂre shown imagery of Rochester at its greenest and best, the narrator repeatedly (with varying degrees of subtlety) tells us that Rochester has come to terms with its past, and is modernizing / adapting itself for the future. To discover what Rochester has come to terms with, one need only look to the sequence beginning at 6:17 in part one. As we tour through the city, the narrator expounds on the purpose of a city and of the surrounding economic area (ÃÂÃÂa place to make a profit, as pleasantly as possibleÃÂÃÂ), and the financial facts of life when it comes to the prosperity of an area. Moving on to pastoral scenes of families alongside waterways, the narrator continues on to tell us how the Erie Canal was once a main travel artery, and with changing times became, in essence, a recreational facility. The underlying message (and parallel) here is clear: while Rochester may have had a certain industrial beginning, it too, like the Erie Canal, must repurpose itself as times change.
The reason why soon becomes clear: because of the automobile, and the highways for them that serve (in spirit) as successors to Erie Canal. The underlying idea here is that just as Rochester was founded on one transportation artery, Rochester must reshape itself to suit the new transportation arteries, and the cars they serve. In terms of the downtown area, the stakes are made clear (at 8:11): ÃÂÃÂTimes change ÃÂÃÂ and you either change your city to fit them, or theyÃÂÃÂll change your city, often unpleasantly. More often, unprofitably.ÃÂÃÂ Indeed, as the narrator continues on to tell us, over imagery ostensibly from the opening ceremony for a highway, Rochester has ÃÂÃÂmade its peace with the Automobile. Is it practical to do otherwise? ÃÂÃÂ 20th century America is geared to the automobile, and thus is Rochester geared.ÃÂÃÂ Rochester is then described as ÃÂÃÂ in an obvious comparison to other cities ÃÂÃÂ one in which traffic flows quickly, safely, and freely, and in which thereÃÂÃÂs plenty of convenient parking for now and the future. In a society increasingly based around the car, the appeal of an easy drive to Rochester for commuters (and for the employers of commuters) is plain to see.
The film then moves on to further demonstrate its own viability and attractiveness, again differentiating itself from other cities while giving subtle acknowledgment to the problems it, like other cities has. Forty seconds into part two, the narrator makes it clear ÃÂÃÂ over shots of several businesses ÃÂÃÂ that Rochester is a city with ÃÂÃÂquality people, quality industries, skilled industries and skilled people, clean industries, clean people, stable industries, stable people.ÃÂÃÂ With that description we are led to believe that it is a city with a strong economic base (no acknowledgement of businesses closing down or moving to the suburbs) and with a good workforce (well trained, balanced, and employed). Yet, workforce retraining is presented to us under the guise of a preemptive response to ÃÂÃÂtechnological lag.ÃÂÃÂ Indeed, the film would lead us to believe Rochester is a city without problems. However, by the filmÃÂÃÂs own subtle admission, Rochester is a city trying to solve its economic downturn. The effects of deindustrialization and decentralization were being felt, and smoothed over.
Indeed, one needs only look at how the film deals with suburbanization ÃÂÃÂ the mass exodus from the cities that was made possible by the automobile ÃÂÃÂ to see this more clearly. ÃÂÃÂRochester didnÃÂÃÂt fight the suburbs or the shopping centers rising to meet suburban needs. It simply capitalized on the things people liked about shopping centers: wide varieties of merchandise, the fun of meeting people, and above all in this day and age, a place to park.ÃÂÃÂ As such, Rochester (like other cities) responded by refiguring downtown as a place for business (governmental and otherwise), entertainment, and culture. Thus the mention of the various facilities and the events that take place there, as well as the need for parking.
Indeed, reshaping downtown to accommodate and attract suburbanites ÃÂÃÂ namely their automobiles ÃÂÃÂ was probably the true motivation Rochester had in reshaping its central core. The sequence beginning at 11:50, in which the narrator lays out RochesterÃÂÃÂs plan to ÃÂÃÂrip out and rearrange streets, and sections of that central core to its hearts content,ÃÂÃÂ is a truly harrowing one ÃÂÃÂ it truly screams out for inclusion in a program critical of urban renewal. Indeed, in seeing the streets and buildings the planners intend to destroy, one seriously wonders why they would destroy what, for all intents and purposes, looked to be a healthy, thriving area.
The answer seems to primarily lie in the need for the city ÃÂÃÂ particularly the downtown area ÃÂÃÂ to attract people to the area so that it could economically sustain itself. Like the Market Center in which the ÃÂÃÂClock of NationsÃÂÃÂ resided, it would seem that Rochester (like other cities) didnÃÂÃÂt just attempt to attract suburbanites with culture and entertainment, but also with newer, downtown versions of malls, and even apartments. Yet, given the illustrations weÃÂÃÂre shown of the future Genesee Crossroads, an arid set of monolithic buildings intended to encompass both downtown living and working space, itÃÂÃÂs hard to see what the attraction would be for the average Joe ÃÂÃÂ or family for that matter ÃÂÃÂ in comparison to the suburbs. Indeed, if an attraction like the ÃÂÃÂClock of NationsÃÂÃÂ is felt necessary to bring people to the downtown area from the suburbs (Why else would it have been created?), it seems to this viewer that RochesterÃÂÃÂs downtown was certainly in something of a precarious economic position. Unfortunately, further commentary on the long term results for Rochester is beyond the scope of this review.
Overall, while ÃÂÃÂRochester: City of QualityÃÂÃÂ may not be the most entertaining film in the Prelinger collection, it certainly has historical significance, least of all for the residents of Rochester, who can see how their city and surrounding countryside looked nearly four decades ago. If you have an interest in urban renewal, I wholeheartedly recommend you check out ÃÂÃÂThe Dynamic American City,ÃÂÃÂ which is also part of the Prelinger collection.
For ÃÂÃÂfound footageÃÂÃÂ videomakers: The cinematography on this film is average overall ÃÂÃÂ itÃÂÃÂs competently done, but not spectacular. In addition to the sequences noted in my review, there are several worthwhile shots in the film: aerial shots of the city and farmland, shots (from in and outside of a convertible) driving on the highway and in the city, shots of children (farm, petting zoo, Market Center), aerial stills of the inner and outer highway loops, inner city construction (and demolition), a family in their Sunday best leaving their home, suburban shopping plaza, and a shot of men examining a model of what appears to be a nuclear power plant. (The last is rather predictable, as this was a film sponsored by Rochester Gas and Electric Corp.) Additionally, if you are interested in sampling any of the narration, I regret to inform you that there is a music track running under the majority (if not the entirety) of the film.